During the past few months, I had been experiencing extreme stomach pain and discomfort after eating. To my dismay, after explaining such issues to my doctor, she uttered the dreaded words I had been fearing all along: She suggested that I attempt to maintain a gluten free diet. In my mind, I imagined bland foods and rice cakes when picturing the word “gluten free.” What would I do without my delicious carbs?! Admittedly, it has been a challenge to stick to a fully gluten free diet. Yet, I have discovered some alternatives which, dare I say… may be better than the real thing.
Here are five gluten free items that are actually good, as told by someone who has recently embarked on the bread-free journey.
- Banza pizza crust
Pizza is definitely one of my favorite foods, and it is a go-to meal of mine to make as a college student with minimal cooking skills. Thus, I became determined to search for the perfect gluten free crust. After trying various cauliflower crusts (not a fan, too cauliflower-y), I finally stumbled upon a great option: Banza’s chickpea frozen pizza crust. As opposed to other gluten free pizza crusts, Banza’s crust is not soggy and does not have an overpowering “vegetable” flavor. I typically add a drizzle of olive oil and garlic powder to mine, sprinkle on my favorite toppings, and then pop it in the oven for twelve-ish minutes. It’s simple, delicious, and doesn’t make me feel gross after devouring a whole pizza in one sitting. The crusts come in a pack of two and are sold for $7.99 a box. While I usually choose the plain crust so that I can customize my own pizza, Banza also sells pre-made frozen pizzas in “margherita,” “four cheese” and “roasted veggie” flavors for an even easier gluten free meal option.
- Trader Joe’s ABC Bars
As a self-proclaimed Trader Joe’s stan, I was delighted when I encountered these yummy bars in the granola bar aisle. While most granola bars contain gluten, ABC bars are composed of oat and rice flour, making them totally gluten free. “ABC” stands for almond butter cocoa bars, and they taste as good as they sound. ABC bars are soft, chewy and contain just the right amount of chocolate, which makes for an awesome pick-me-up that you can throw in your backpack for a quick snack. For $2.99 a box, they’re totally worth waiting outside in the long line wrapping around the store.
- Cauliflower gnocchi
While I’m not a fan of the cauliflower pizza crust, I can get down with some cauliflower gnocchi. To me, the gnocchi has less of a strong cauliflower flavor, especially when doused in some pesto sauce or a bit of garlic and oil. Cauliflower gnocchi is not only gluten free, but a healthier alternative to most starch-based pastas. I’ve tried two different brands of cauliflower gnocchi: Trader Joes’ version as well as Green Giant’s version. While both are good options, my heart remains loyal to the Trader Joe’s brand. In my opinion, the best way to make these little pillows of deliciousness is to toss them onto a baking sheet (make sure to spread them apart), spray with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, flipping them halfway through. This method makes the gnocchi super crispy on the outside, yet warm and soft on the inside. Add your favorite sauce and enjoy for a tasty lunch or dinner! Both brands come frozen, with the Trader Joe’s brand at $2.69 a bag and Green Giant at $3.59 a bag.
- Van’s gluten free waffles
For a busy college student, waffles are a holy grail breakfast item. You can pop them in the toaster and have a perfect breakfast ready in minutes. I was initially not convinced that any gluten free waffle that could compare to the classic Eggo waffle, but I am happy to say that Van’s waffles are a great substitute! (To be fair, anything covered in butter and maple syrup is probably amazing.) Though I’ve only tried the blueberry waffles so far, they also make these toaster delicacies in apple cinnamon flavor, original, and ancient grain at $2.99 a box.
- Mission gluten free soft taco tortillas
Though corn tortillas are a gluten free favorite, flour tortillas are usually not gluten free. However, no need to fret! Gluten free flour tortillas exist, and they taste just like the real thing. Mission’s gluten free tortillas are soft and not rubbery like some gluten free versions I’ve tried. They’re a great staple for classic taco recipes, or for a new favorite of mine—an easy Caesar salad wrap. They are sold for $4.88 a pack.
Whether you need to remove gluten from your diet for digestive health reasons, or you’re just trying to cut back, these gluten free food products are just as good and still make for some easy, college-friendly meals!